Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010 NCAA Championships (Day 2)

Workout day and Remembering Pre...
Today was Matt's last workout of substance before his National Championship race this Thursday night. Yesterday's rain was replaced with blue skies and warm weather with low humidity. We headed over to the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium (photo below), which is where they play football and the easiest location to access Pre's Trail. His workout consisted of a series of farlek runs designed to get the trip and travel out of his legs.
Pre's Trail, of course, is named after legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, or "Pre". The story goes that he returned to Eugene after a few international cross country meets impressed by the style and terrain of those European cross country courses. Upon returning from Europe, he met with local officials and suggested efforts be made to build a running trail through Eugene's Alton Baker Park. Lane County officials worked with the Oregon Track Club and University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman to design and build what is now known as Pre's Trail. Within four months of Pre's death in an auto accident in 1975, the new trail was used to host a memorial race in his honor.

Matt on the bike path next to Pre's Trail...The 4.07 mile trail is roughly 15 feet wide with a soft, wood chip surface...Another recommendation presented by "Pre". In the background is the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium, home of the Duck's football team.

After his workout and drills we headed to dinner at Steelhead Restaurant in downtown Eugene for some excellent salmon. After dinner were drove by historic Hayward Field, the sight of the NCAA Championship events. We'll go over tomorrow morning for Matt's morning run giving him an opportunity to discover a route for his warm-up Thursday evening.
After dinner we drove to Pre's Rock...the location of Steve Prefontaine's fatal car accident on May 30, 1975. This is a sacred place for any American Distance Runner.
"For your dedication and loyalty
To your principles and beliefs...
For your love, warmth, and friendship
For your family and friends...
You are missed by so many
And you will never be forgotten..."
The original designation on the rock was a simple white finger painted "PRE 5-30-75 R.I.P." Many years after his death the current monument (above) was placed because so many people visited the site while in Eugene. It's a tranquil place that you can't help but find yourself asking: "What if?"...and...."How different would our sport be today?"

A bronze statue is affixed to the stone wall...Today a button with "Pre's" photo was attached to the statue.

Around the corner from "Pre's Rock" on Skyline Drive you find a great view of the Willamette River and Pre's Trail...In the distance you can see University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium (photo below).

A closer look at the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium from Skyline Boulevard near Pre's Rock.

One of the famous photos of Pre racing in front of his home crowd at Hayward Field on his way to one of his many American Records. The quote: "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts."

Brash and yet charismatic Pre raced hard and competed harder...but they say he always had time for his friends and fans after his races.

My Memory of the News of Steve Prefontaine's Death
In June of 1975 my brothers convinced my dad to take up running to get into shape. A few weeks before my dad started to run I remember my brother Matt waking up and reaching for his radio. It was Saturday morning, May 31st, 1975. As I lay there in bed we listened to the music from a station in Parkersburg, WV near my hometown of St. Marys. It was 7:00AM and the top of the hour as the ABC News came on the radio. Matt had the volume turned up high enough for my brother Vernon and I to hear. That’s when it came on the air. The news that only years later would I understand. That's when the news reporter said, “Great American distance runner Steve Prefontaine is dead.” He went on to explain that “Pre” was killed in a single car accident the night before (May 30) while driving to his home in Eugene, Oregon. As I listened I recall Matt’s disbelief. He and Vernon began to talk rapidly about the news. As their little brother I wanted to know who this Steve Prefontaine was. After several minutes Matt began to explain Steve Prefontaine was the greatest American Distance Runner ever...a title that lives on even today some 35 years later. At one time he held American Records in every distance from the Mile through the 10,000 Meters. He was also the first athlete Nike ever sponsored...today he is even more legendary. His race toughness and competitiveness helped build a reputation for the Nike Athletics Empire that was in its infancy at the time. I can still hear the words coming from the radio and that was nearly 35 years ago...

"Fire in the Track"
"PRE LIVES" on a Nike poster of a picture of his last race earlier in the evening of his death (May 30, 975)...As the crowd stood cheering their champion...no one was in sight behind him. "His" people, as he called them...couldn't get enough. In his lifetime he lost only 3 races on the Hayward Field Track...They were all at the Mile distance which was certainly not his best event. In his career, he won 120 of the 153 races he ran (78 percent)...One of his most famous quotes: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift."
And there's his quote before one of his American Record performances...When asked by the media what his race strategy was going to be, he calmly replied, "Well, my plan is pretty simple", he said. "I want to start out at World Record pace...and then pick it up."

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